Scene 19 – Be Careful What You Ask

MILK RUN is a military SciFi novel.

Earth is losing the war against the Telrachnids, and our young Captain Toby Nathanael Louis is assigned to deliver a new weapon to a secret star base. But what our hero thought would be an easy first mission turns out to be a test of his ability to lead a crew and ship much older than he against an enemy that is using his own fiancée to destroy him, his ship and his mission.

Can our young captain complete his mission and save his fiancée too?

As always, thanks my beta readers and I’m always on the lookout for more MILK RUN reviewers.  You can easily join our merry crew by clicking this StoryOrigin link here then clicking the big blue “Request Beta Copy” button. 

Here’s a scene from the book that shows how Captain Toby Nathanael Louis, thrown in the brig after his second in command takes over his ship, regains control of the USS Princeton.

Seven days!  And the ship has never swayed to one side or the other. No zigzagging.  Emerson’s attempts to prove himself is setting the ship up for a Telrachnid ambush. A smile slowly pulls across Toby’s face.  That will end his foolish endeavor. 

But the celebratory mood quickly fades as Toby’s smile tightens into a deep frown.  The Princeton will surely take on more damage and loss of life.  Be careful what you ask.

Then whatever is left of the artificial night in the brig dissolves away to a sharp red glare as the ship’s klaxon once again announces the reappearance of the Telrachnid gunship.  Suddenly the brig’s bars and the rest of the tiny room rushes up to Toby who throws up one arm to block the incoming blow. The impact throws him across the room, as his magboots lose their grip with the metal floor.  As he floats in zero-gravity, the room rushes in the opposite direction ending in a shoulder cracking sound on impact.  Emerson is finally flying a zigzag pattern.

Now, the room swings in another direction as Toby throws up his hands to soften the next blow.   Be careful of what you ask comes back to mind on the third impact.     

A loud bang accompanies each sway of the ship.  The Telrachnid gunship is landing successful railgun hits. Then the purring sound from the Princeton’s MRCs answer in return with a salvo of magnetized sandstone pellets. Hopefully, each pound of the stuff propelled to one-third the speed of light will drill through the Telrachnid gunship’s armored hull with the force of 41 thousand sticks of dynamite.

But that is a distant fact as the brig now feels more like the insides of a tin can rolling down a rocky hill as the Princeton twists back and forth. The deafening bang followed by an occasional grinding sound of metal-on-metal surely means a chunk of the Princeton has been ripped away and with it lives Toby swore to protect.  Be careful what you ask. 

Finally, the metallic magboot clanking sound of a security team making their way to the brig pierces through the commotion to greet the ear.  “The ship has taken on more damage, more than anticipated.” says one of the guards. 

“No shit!” says Toby holding back a smirk.

“The commander wants you on the bridge to distract Smriti,” says the other guard as he opens the bar doors.

“No need to ask me twice,” says Toby, his mag boots firmly attached to the metallic floor as he rushes pass the guards then into a long swaying corridor filled with what looks like drunken crew members clanking their way to assigned battle stations. 

The bridge doors slide open to expose a room filled with ragged drooping cables and flopping white ceiling tiles that reflect the flashing red battle station lights. Across the room, impressed on a giant monitor is Smriti’s face, sharp and angular as she yells out, “where’s Toby, where’s Toby, what have you done with him?”

Toby frowns at Smriti’s video image as she yells out his first name like some sort of panicked mother looking for her child.  Her high-pitched voice seems timed with the Telrachnid gunship railgun hits that threaten to tear the USS Princeton apart from its keel. Fear is a strange, horrible but necessary tool to convince others to follow your lead.  So, seeing fright beaming out from the bridge crew’s wide-open eyes, Toby’s frown stretches into a hidden smile, the plan is working.

Nevertheless, the Telrachnid gunship railgun hits seem to increase as Smriti’s now calmer eyes settle on Toby. The Princeton can’t stand much more of this.

So, Toby yells out, “MRC, cease fire!” Then he tells Emerson loud enough for all to hear, “She will stop when we stop. She doesn’t want to fight.”

But Emerson counters, “They will cut us to pieces!”

“That’s already done!  MRC, cease fire.”

More direct hits rattle the bridge as Toby turns to Stockton and again yells out for all to hear, “Chief, Emerson has unlawfully assumed command without your consent.”

“Now is not the time to quote regulations,” shouts Emerson.

“You can’t outgun that gunship, not at this close range!” screams Toby.

“Watch me!” says Emerson as he takes over the MRC controls from the firing officer.

As Emerson wrestles control of the MRC, Toby turns to Stockton.  “Chief, who captains this ship?  Decide!” warns Toby hoping the gunship doesn’t make a lucky hit like before.

This time Stockton doesn’t pause.   Narrowing one eye to a thin slit, Stockton quickly swings around to face Toby and Emerson, “I’ll stop their attack, but first, you two must promise to work with each other.”

Toby looks at Emerson who looks back with a loony expression.   “What?”

Then a large bang rumbles throughout the ship as some strange force shoves it to the port side. The ripping noise seems to go on forever then suddenly fades away with a tinny echo.  

Repositioning his body back in front of his screen, Lieutenant Commander Anderson, looking like he doesn’t know exactly who to address says, “er, sir, the bow has torn away, the security section and forward missile launchers 1 through 7 are gone, forward bulkhead seals are holding.”

Smriti’s voice pleads, “Toby, what is happening there?  Please stop your attack so I can convince the Telrachnids to stop their attack!”

“Chief, you can stop this. They are tearing us up!”

Then Emerson jumps Toby, “You are no longer the captain of this ship!”

As he tussles with Emerson, Toby can see from the corner of his eye, Stockton who simply turns to his console and fiddle with some buttons. Counting on his support may not have been a good idea.

For a long moment the momentum and grasp from Emerson’s bulk prevents escape.  Then relief arrives, thanks to two security officers who peel Emerson off. 

Oblivious to the tussle, Stockton turns to the missile officer and barks out an order. “Missile officer, fire nukes from tubes 13 and 14 at the gunship.”

But the missile officer warns the chief, “we are too close, won’t the nuclear explosion destroy our ship too?”

“Don’t ask, just do!” the old man yells out.

The push of the two missiles fired from the midship section throws Toby off balance as he watches them head for their target.  Then the bridge viewing screen flashes a bright white as a shockwave rattles everything on the bridge.  Yet the Princeton is still intact. A nuke’s blast would have wiped out everything within 2 kilometers of the blast. It seems only the primary conventional detonations took place, not the secondary nuclear responses.

The bright white viewing monitor screen fades back to black and reveals a now silenced Telrachnid gunship that begins to list to one side, the one with a big gaping hole.

“There’s the doorway to the gunship you requested captain,” Stockton tells Toby.

“The nuclear fission core?” asks Toby.

“Removed.  Just the conventional triggers exploded,” answers the chief who then looks blankly towards Emerson and continues.  “Security, bring Commander Emerson to his quarters, the Captain Louis owns this ship, such as it is.”

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